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Therapeutic Tetrad

"Therapeutic Tetrad"

In ecotherapy, nature is an important part of the therapeutic alliance. Healthy ecosystems are vital for the wellbeing of humans and the rest of nature.

Thomas Berry asserted "You cannot have well humans on a sick planet, it's obvious. ... Human health is a sub-system of the earth's health." (Reason, 2001) 
Therefore, a call is made to psychotherapy and arts therapy to apply our practice for the health promotion of the Earth and the rest of nature (Sibbett, 1997), which humans are part of.  Richards (2010) makes a call to arts, advocating that exposure to artistic living and its benefits would better prepare our children for life. The concept of eARTherapy is proposed - Arts therapists can play a vital role in applying arts therapy to promote the well-being of our planet (Gaia).

In art therapy, there is a potential for a “therapeutic tetrad” or “therapeutic quadrad” (Sibbett, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001) that involves a relationship with four inter-relating components: art therapist, client, art/creativity and nature.

RotationGreen logoTherapeutic Tetrad - rotation of the elements (c)CS

For many years, I have been exploring ideas and experiences related to art therapy / psychotherapy, wellbeing, rites of passage, ritual, liminality and nature.

The Green Man - nature and art - rites of passage and creative liminality

Green man, foliate being
Green Being

Green Man
Green Being
The Green Man, an archetypal figure, symbolises nature and life (Anderson, 1990). In art and architecture, typically the Green Man takes the form of a foliate face. The figure has ancient origins and appears in various forms in many cultures. Lady Raglan coined the name the "Green Man" in her 1939 article 'The "Green Man" in Church Architecture'. Clarke (2005) proposed that the Green Man is linked to Osiris and argues that Osiris, as "the Lord of Green Vegetation" equals Mercurius as the Green Man or Kernunnus. Carl Jung (1981a, CW13, para.243) describes Mercurius (or Hermes) as the “numen of the tree, its spiritus vegetativus” and as “the life principle of the tree… The tree would then be the outwards and visible realization of the self.” Perry (1997: 149) describes Mercurius as “he who abides at the threshold (of change).” Mercurius equates with Hermes who Stein (1983) regards as the guide of souls through liminality or threshold situations. Liminality involves the use of symbols such as trees (Turner, 1982: 27) and such symbols can appear in clients’ and therapists’ artwork. Trees have symbolic importance in many cultures; in Celtic belief trees “particularly the oak… were believed to contain great power and were thus sacred” (Probyn, 2005). Jung (1981a, CW13, para.316) discusses how “the tree and the snake are both symbols of Mercurius… The tree symbolizes earthbound corporeality, the snake emotionality and the possession of a soul… The union of the two… would mean the animation of the body and the materialization of the soul.” 

Ritual and rites of passage involve an experience of liminality: being betwixt and between when moving across a threshold or when in limbo. Writing about rites of passage, Turner (1967; 1982: 27) comments that trees are liminal symbols. Trees are also symbols of the self and of Mercurius (Jung, 1981a, CW13) and, similar to the caduceus, act as a guide through liminality (Stein, 1983). Trees can be symbols of trauma (Rankin, 1994). There are correspondences between skin, paper and bark and so the tree can symbolise our condition (Cohen and Mills, 1999) and trees are metaphors of identity that are part of material culture (Garner, 2004). However, a rhizome, not a tree, is a more relevant symbol for between states (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). In the Celtic tradition, Mistletoe is associated with “twi-states” as it is neither ordinary plant nor tree (Sutherland, 1985).

(Sibbett, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2014)